By Jerry Zezima
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
I barged into Spielberg’s office at DreamWorks, blew past his secretary, who was sharpening a pencil, and plopped myself down in the plush chair in front of his desk.
“You owe me a big one, Steven,” I blurted.
“How so, Zez?” responded Spielberg, who recognized me from the mug shot on my “Zez Says” column in my hometown paper, The Stamford Advocate in Connecticut. Specifically, it was the column I had sent to the legendary director earlier this year, spoofing him for purposely getting the Connecticut delegation’s 13th Amendment vote wrong in the 2012 film Lincoln and praising Joe Courtney, a congressman from my home state, for his renewed efforts to set the record straight.
“You know what I mean,” I told him.
“Artistic license,” Spielberg said in his own feeble defense.
“You can take your license and shove it –”
Spielberg was ashen. His secretary stopped sharpening her pencil.
“– ahead of all your other projects,” I continued.
“You mean you have a movie idea for me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I announced.
“Now you’re talking,” Spielberg said animatedly.
“It’s not animation,” I informed him. “It’s live action.”
“Fine,” said Spielberg. “It’ll save on ink. What’s it about?”
“Newspaper columnists,” I said proudly.
“What about them?” Spielberg wanted to know.
“The National Society of Newspaper Columnists is having its 2016 conference in Los Angeles,” I said. “The NSNC is going Hollywood.”
“Write this down,” Spielberg told his secretary.
“How do you spell ‘NSNC’?” she chirped.
I looked at Spielberg. He looked at me. “She’s new,” he explained.
“And not at all like your former secretary, Kathleen Kennedy, who’s now one of the most powerful women in Hollywood,” I pointed out. “She’s got brains, talent and clout. And she can spell ‘NSNC.’ If you don’t go for my idea, I’ll take it to her at Lucasfilm.”
“OK,” said Spielberg. “Tell me more.”
“It’ll make a swell picture,” I went on. “Kind of like The Front Page, except these days it would have to be called The Front Webpage. What do you think?”
“I like it,” Spielberg replied excitedly.
“Of course,” I said, “all the columnists will be heroes, crusading against scandal, injustice and price gouging on beer.”
“Who would play you?” Spielberg inquired.
“Well,” I said modestly, “I can see Tom Hanks in the role. But he’d have to lose weight and grow a mustache.”
“And who would write the screenplay?” Spielberg asked.
“Not Tony Kushner,” I said, referring to the Broadway playwright who wrote Lincoln, the guy whose egregious mistake caused the Connecticut kerfuffle. “Since there’d be a lot of humor — we’re a fun bunch — maybe another Broadway playwright, Neil Simon.”
“You mean it could be something like Plaza Suite?” Spielberg suggested.
“More like Hospitality Suite,” I said. “And if that doesn’t work out, I’ll write it myself.”
“I can see it now,” said Spielberg, framing his fingers in a box to imagine a camera shot. “The conference is an epic. Scores of columnists gather to save American journalism. It’ll have drama, it’ll have comedy, it’ll have everything!”
“So it’s a go?” I asked.
“You bet!” he said. “I’m going to green-light it right away. Shooting begins next June. Tell your paper in New York to give you time off.”
“My paper is in Connecticut,” I reminded him. “Please don’t make the same mistake twice.”
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Jerry Zezima writes a syndicated humor column for The Stamford Advocate.
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This column was published originally in the August 2015 edition of the member newsletter The Columnist.